That Microsoft is making Windows free for consumer tablet and smart phone makers is historic. It doesn’t mean Redmond is on the verge of giving away the store – especially for the enterprise – but it does further signify a shift away from a Windows centrism that threatens Microsoft with irrelevance.
It was about 40 years ago that young Bill Gates upset the early microcomputer hobbyist community by packaging and selling software. The idea that software is something you buy has been sacred to Microsoft to this day.
Further to Microsoft orthodoxy is the idea that one particular type of software, the computer operating system, was something that was sold and licensed to a particular device. That started with MS-DOS for PCs in the 80s, then Windows for PCs in the 90s, and Windows Server into the new millennium.
Call it a Windows first policy – a policy that made Microsoft billions but has been an impediment to modern trends in virtualization, cloud computing, and mobility.
In the mobile world in particular Microsoft has missed a big boat with a miniscule number of Windows-running devices while Google’s free Android has dominated followed by Apple’s IOS. Meanwhile sales of the venerable PC (and laptop) are cratering big time.
So now Microsoft is talking “Cloud first and Mobile first” and moving away from Windows first. Following the March 24th announcement of Office (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint) for the iPad we now get news that Windows is going to be free for some mobile devices.
These moves are limited. For example the free Windows is only for consumer devices of nine-inch screen or smaller and Windows was only costing $5 to $15 for these devices before. But they do underscore Microsoft’s intention that the so called post-PC era will not be the post Microsoft era. The question is whether this is too little too late.
Meanwhile businesses are grappling with Microsoft licensing that remains Windows centric and device centric. Though there have been some changes to bend to trends such as cloud and virtualization, a clean break with past has not been made.
Info-Tech clients have had success, to save money and aggravation, in grappling with the resulting maze that is Microsoft licensing. Check out the infographic below for our Microsoft licensing solution (click on the image for larger view and to go to our project blueprint). In spite of cloud first and mobile first this isn’t a story due to get easier (or cheaper) any time soon.